Environment Magazine

No Room for Dissenting Opinions: Statement from a Former Member of Deep Green Resistance

Posted on the 17 May 2013 by Earth First! Newswire @efjournal


cross-posted from Facebook

I am an ex-member of Deep Green Resistance. The entire chapter of DGR that I was a part of left in the spring of last year, largely in response to the trans-exclusive policy and the Radical Feminist position on gender that was being adopted by the organization at that time.

When I had first joined the organization, I was told by key founders of the organization, including Aric McBay – who is the primary author of the book Deep Green Resistance and the sole author of the strategy that the organization promotes, Decisive Ecological Warfare – that the Radical Feminist position was not the official position of the organization.

When it became clear that the staff of DGR was intent on making the Radical Feminist position the official position of the organization, our local chapter tried to open spaces for dialog on this issue. We were denied. It was made clear to us that there was no room in the organization for dissenting opinions on the subject of gender, and that if we didn’t like what the organization was doing on this front, then we had to leave.

It was also made clear to us that a particular member of our chapter, a wonderful organizer who also happened to be a transwoman, who consistently expressed a tremendous amount of willingness to compromise with the national organization on their position on trans people and trans access, was not going to be met halfway. There was to be no meaningful conversation. There was to be no debate. There wasn’t even a compassionate attempt to break down and explain where people with the Radical Feminist position were coming from. We were told to get with the program or leave, so we left, and other chapters and individuals followed, including Aric McBay himself.

Since then, I have been honest with people asking about my former involvement with DGR and about the organization itself, but I have refused to bash the organization entirely. Most people who I have heard criticizing the ideas of DGR clearly have never read the book and clearly do not understand anything about what the organization is actually saying about how the strategy of Decisive Ecological Warfare can help stop the destruction of the planet in the time we have left. They have often grossly mischaracterized DGR’s position on a number of things, and I have done everything that I can to correct them. The one thing that I have not been able to defend – and will not defend – is the behavior they exhibited at the time of our departure and their adoption of an unyielding Radical Feminist position on trans people.

The reason I am stepping forward now is this: I do not want people unfamiliar with the material in the book Deep Green Resistance, the writings of Lierre Keith and Derrick Jensen, and anti-civ thought in general, to associate or equate these things with transphobia. One of my greatest fears has been that people would come to do so, which is one of the reasons that I and many ex-members of DGR have gone out of their way to not bash the organization. But in the conversation that’s unfolding right now on the internet, I can see that people are beginning to associate anti-civ thought with the Rad Fem position on gender and with trans-exclusivity.

I am a queer male (and for the Radical Feminists reading this, I refer to myself as queer not because of a post-modernist understanding of gender and sexuality, but because I am against assimilation and the mainstream gay rights movement agenda and identify myself as “queer” and not “gay” in order to make that distinction). I am in community with a number of beautiful, powerful trans people. I completely support their right to dignity, their freedom to do what they will with their own bodies and spirits, and their struggles against the violence that they experience. I am also anti-civ. I believe that it is crucial that radicals of all stripes come to understand the fundamental links between civilization and patriarchy, empire, slavery, genocide, and ecocide. I am also in full support of the strategy to save the planet that was written by Aric McBay, and that DGR is promoting, Decisive Ecological Warfare. I think everyone who cares about the fate of the planet should read that strategy and do what they can to promote it, engage with it, and support it.

I also think that radicals should be reading Lierre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice and Sustainability and the work of Derrick Jensen. More than that, I plead that y’all do. Lierre Keith’s book is quite possibly the most powerful, compassionate, and critical primer on ecology, food politics, nutrition, and the destructive legacies of agriculture out there. If I could give every person in my life a copy of one book, it would be hers. I have never stopped promoting her work, or the work of Derrick Jensen, who writes some of the most thorough and brave explorations of the origins and manifestations of the dominant culture’s violence that I have ever seen. I think the second and third book I would give everyone in my life are volumes one and two of his Endgame. Further, I think that these two people are in fact really good people. I disagree with them on trans people, and I have critical questions about their silence on the existence and struggles of queer and gay people in general, but I agree with them on nearly everything else and recognize them as wounded people who have shortcomings like the rest of us.

I don’t say this to belittle the importance of the conversation on the nature of gender and what that means for trans people. What I am saying is that people shouldn’t dismiss the entirety of what these authors, and the organization Deep Green Resistance, have to say. In fact, I am pleading that radicals get their hands on a copy of the book Deep Green Resistance, the book of which Aric McBay is the primary author. It is a crucial read for everyone who cares about the fate of the left and the fate of the planet. Disagree with it or not, it needs to be engaged with, and on its own terms, and not through sweeping dismissal grounded on heresay and rumor. If you’re going to critique it, read it first.

I am also pointing out that we as radicals often find ourselves learning from people who we wouldn’t agree with entirely. An example: Frantz Fanon was crucial to my radicalization around racism and colonialism, and I took a lot from his work, despite the fact that he is a patriarchal homophobe. Hell, gay and queer experience is almost entirely absent from most of the anti-capitalist, anti-racist, and otherwise radical literature that I’ve read, but that hasn’t kept me from taking those analyses and ideas and giving them a home in my own queer heart, mind, and body. When it comes to Lierre Keith, Derrick Jensen, and the book Deep Green Resistance, I am asking that people do the same.

And the reason why is because the planet is being murdered. We are losing the world. We’re about to blow past the 400 ppm mark, and another two hundred species went extinct today. The most important thing that we on the left can be doing is fighting against what the powerful are doing to the planet, the indigenous, and poor people around the world. Instead, I see us fighting with each other. This horizontal hostility has got to stop. We can still engage with one another critically. In fact, we must engage with each other critically. But we need to recognize the difference between doing that and being ineffective, dismissive hecklers.

I think the organization Deep Green Resistance is effectively dead in the water. It grieves me to say so, because the heart of what they are saying is so important, and virtually no one else is saying it. I am astounded with what seems to be a profound and abiding death urge on their part. They know that the position they are adopting on trans people is alienating and isolating them from the overwhelmingly majority of the communities that might otherwise support them and work with them. They are committing political suicide, and they know it. They seem to think that holding on to this position is more important than the health of the work that they set out to do in the first place. They seem to think it’s more important than the fight to save the planet. Regardless of what people like me say, many people will come to associate anti-civ analysis and Decisive Ecological Warfare with transphobia. Regardless of what people like me say, more and more people who might otherwise listen to what people like Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith have to say about the planet, about civilization, and about resistance are going to tune them out instead, and even prevent them from speaking publicly about these things. This is more than sad. This is an awful, horrible thing to witness happening. I am almost beside myself with grief.

When I watch the video of Rachel Ivey presenting DGR’s position on gender, what I hear and see is a lot of defensiveness. The tone of this video is also smug, condescending, self-righteous, and isolating – characterized by some of the very things that Lierre Keith has called out about the adolescent nature of the culture of the left. Rachel has a lot of things to say that are really compelling, and that I think should be critically engaged with by everybody, and she could have given the same talk in a completely different spirit, in a spirit that was inviting to the curious and to the dismissive alike, in a spirit that was compassionate and open-hearted. And this is the thing that I would express to DGR directly: y’all are going about this the wrong way. If y’all really believe that the position on gender that y’all have is crucial to dismantling patriarchy and our collective liberation, and the fight to save the planet, then y’all need to approach people with the same level of compassion, openness, and just plain respect that y’all would have when talking to people who’ve never heard of anti-civ analysis, or who don’t know the difference between liberalism and radicalism, or any number of the things that y’all probably find yourselves having to educate people about on a regular basis.

The truth is that many of the public proponents of the Radical Feminist position on gender are incredibly disrespectful, mean-spirited, crude, and downright ugly when talking about and talking to trans people. To be certain, I’ve also seen disrespectful, mean-spirited, crude, and downright ugly responses by trans people and their supporters to Radical Feminists. But what I’m saying is that if Radical Feminists – including members of DGR – really want people to understand what they are actually trying to say, then they need to have – and express – a basic level of respect and compassion for trans people and trans experience. You can have an entirely different analysis of gender and still treat trans people as human beings worthy of basic consideration. You can still talk to people in a way that’s not smug, condescending, vitriolic, or hateful. Having a different analysis of gender than most leftists does not have to be an inherently hateful thing, but many Radical Feminists are being hateful in the way that they express their position. If DGR actually wants to have an impact on the conversation and an impact on the culture of the left with their message, then they need to publicly distance themselves from the hateful, hurtful language of many Radical Feminist leaders and authors, and they need to themselves engage with people on the topic in a compassionate and respectful way.

In general, people with different analyses of gender need to be able to work together, or at the very least not go out of their way to attack one another, just like people with different analyses of civilization need to be able to work together, or at the very least not go out of their way to attack one another. With everything that’s at stake, if this is all it takes for us to actively attack one another, then we’re done for as radicals and we’re done for as a species.

I ask that people who are anti-civ and/or supportive of the strategy and tactics outlined by Aric McBay’s work, including Decisive Ecological Warfare (DEW), and who are also gay, queer, trans, or supportive of trans people’s basic dignity, experience, and rights step forward publicly. Please help people understand that being anti-civ and supporting DEW does not mean taking up the Radical Feminist position on gender. Please help people understand that there is more to the work of authors like Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith than this. Please help people understand that even though there isn’t a home for gay, queer, and trans folks in the organization Deep Green Resistance, that there is a home for them in the greater struggle against the meta-culture of civilization and the struggle to bring down industrial civilization itself.

With a Full Heart :: aidan

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